Clinton Endorses Republican Plan To Overhaul Welfare
Promising to make good on his 1992 campaign pledge to "end welfare as we know it," President Clinton said last week he would sign a Republican-backed welfare bill.
"Our current welfare system traps generation after generation in dependency and hurts the very people it was designed to help," the president said.
The bill makes dramatic changes in the nation's system of providing for poor families and children. Last week, it cleared the House on a vote of 328-101 and the Senate on a 78-21 vote.
Mr. Clinton, who has vetoed two similar welfare bills during the past year , said in his remarks that the legislation still had flaws but had been amended in ways that made it more acceptable. He echoed the sentiments of Republican leaders who said the bill, which also received significant support from Congressional Democrats, represents a historic opportunity to overhaul an unpopular welfare system.
"Today marks a new direction in the war on poverty that will help the needy by stressing work, personal responsibility, and local control over welfare," said Rep. Bill Archer, R-Tex., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
But many of the president's own supporters said they were outraged by Mr. Clinton's endorsement of the bill, which they said would slash the safety net for children.
"President Clinton's signature will leave a moral blot on his presidency and on our nation that will never be forgotten," said Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Washington-based Children's Defense Fund and one of Mr. Clinton's staunchest allies. More than 1 million children will be thrown into poverty once the bill is enacted, she contended.
Mr. Clinton said he would attempt to correct deficiencies in the bill by proposing additional legislation in the future.
Child-Care Funds Boosted
Like the two earlier versions, the bill would transfer control of most federal welfare programs to the states in the form of block grants, ending welfare's status as an entitlement for anyone who is eligible. It would require people on welfare to work for their assistance checks and would set a five-year lifetime limit on cash benefits.
Under the new system, states would be required to make child-care payments to mothers on welfare who have a child under age 11 and are compelled to work. The bill would authorize $22 billion in child-care funding for the states over six years--a $4 billion increase Mr. Clinton fought for.
The bill would allow states to deny benefits to unmarried teenage mothers who refuse to stay in school or live with an adult. States would be allowed to pay extra benefits to mothers who have additional children while on welfare.
But the bill retains several provisions strongly opposed by the administration. One would prohibit states from using federal block grant money to offer vouchers for items such as clothing, diapers, and medicine to families after the five-year cutoff.
Another controversial provision would cut off food stamps and Supplemental Security Income benefits to legal aliens.